The International National Trusts Organisation (INTO)

Sowing seeds with the Incubator

BlogsCase StudiesProgrammes May 28, 2024

Welcome to the Islands Incubator

A blog by Vanessa Targett, Deputy-Secretary General (DSG), on our recent ‘Islands Incubator’.

When I joined INTO as the DSG in February, I was delighted to be handed the reins of organising one of the flagship INTO programmes.

The Incubator was made possible with funding from the Helen Hamlyn Trust, and it enables representatives from our membership to come together in an experiential learning environment. We find this model of being away from the ‘day job’, free from meetings and emails (mostly!), gives the important head space needed to allow reflection on professional practice, and the challenges and opportunities faced within roles and organisations. It offers an invaluable chance to see and learn about how other national trusts and likeminded organisations operate in the heritage sector.

This isn’t the first time we have run an Incubator programme. Previous Incubators have focused on accelerating the establishment and growth of new INTO members, addressing common questions such as:

  • Which governance and business model is best for my organisation?
  • How do we get our first property?
  • How will we make money, involve volunteers and grow our membership?
  • What about relations with government?
  • How will we communicate our cause?

Our cohort this year was different, and was curated around coastlines and islands, meaning all the discussions were viewed through a lens specific to managing coastal sites for nature, tourism and local communities.

We are all still buzzing after the huge success of our ‘Islands Incubator’, which ran from 13-18 May. The programme provided an opportunity for delegates from 12 INTO members from across the globe to come together for a week of learning and sharing of best practice and expertise, whilst simultaneously having the opportunity to see the National Trust’s teams at work across three different locations in the south west of England.

This year’s cohort was comprised of INTO members from Fiji, Taiwan, Jersey, Scotland, St Helena, the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the USA.

From the choice of location, the different National Trust teams and the selection of the Incubator recipients the mood was set for greatness from start to finish. I have truly learned a lot from the various National Trust's teams and the conversations we had on the coach, on the ferry, and around the dinner tables. I hope the BVI is ready to be shaken a little for the many changes that are about to happen for a better future.
- Dr Cassander Titley O'Neal, Director, National Parks of the Virgin Islands

Members participating

Bahamas National Trust

The Bahamas


The British Virgin Islands




St Helena

Taiwan Environmental Information Association Logo




We spent the first day together at the National Trust’s Head Office in Swindon, where a morning of introductions and setting of personal and shared objectives for the week was followed by an afternoon event, which invited National Trust staff and other guests and supporters to come and learn more about INTO’s work and hear directly from our incubator delegates.

Next came four days of sites visits hosted by the National Trust’s North Devon, Holnicote Estate and Dunster Castle, Gardens and Watermill teams, as well as a visit to Lundy Island hosted by the Landmark Trust. The delegates met with a wide range of expert staff throughout the week, including rangers, conservationists, let estate, holiday and visitor experience teams, general managers, gardens, curation and membership services.

This wide ranging exposure is impossible to replicate in an online forum, and we observed connections and networks emerging with ease.

For the National Trust staff and hosts, the week provided an opportunity to not only showcase their own projects and expertise, but also to learn from the visiting delegates.

There’s so much to take back to The Bahamas that will have a tremendous impact on our work. I look forward to collaborating with you all and discovering what you implement from this week’s teachings. Thank you INTO and all Trust colleagues!
- Anna Bancroft, Communications and Marketing Director, Bahamas National Trust

First hand experience

Our group stayed in National Trust holiday cottages on the Holnicote estate, which helped to demonstrate the Trust’s approach to their holidays business and enabled delegates to compare this to their own organisation’s offer. Not every INTO member has a holiday offer; for some it’s not possible or suitable, but for others it was a chance to explore the potential for developing this commercial income stream.

It provided the perfect start point for future conversations, and just two weeks on we already have discussions continuing online between Incubator delegates and their hosts, about topics such as communication approach with tenants, property acquisition processes and membership retention.

It really has been an amazing week of amazing places, great people, and packed with insight that is sure to make Bermuda and the world a better place. I feel like I gained a new support team. Thank you everyone!
- Myles Darrell, Head of Natural Heritage, Bermuda National Trust

What next?

Over the coming weeks we will be conducting our review of the Incubator programme, collating feedback from all of those involved and looking at to what extent it supported delegates to achieve their objectives. We look forward to sharing the findings of this soon.

I am so pleased and feel very fortunate to have delivered this year’s Incubator programme. A big part of what we do at INTO is understanding what our members need to support their success. We showcase, and facilitate sharing of, best practice, and we bring people together – passionate, generous and collaborative people who can make things happen for their organisation. I’m excited to see how the connections which were formed during the week develop going forward.

Thank you to all those who participated in the Incubator programme, especially our generous hosts who made it all possible.

Could you host an Incubator?

If you are an INTO member who would be interested in hosting an Incubator style programme in the future, please do get in touch.

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